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NEWS

RLS gets a new regional office complete with a local legend

Royal Life Saving has a great history of conducting lifesaving and water safety activity in regional NSW.


This tradition will now expand to the establishment of a full-time training and development officer to be based in Tamworth, who will guide and oversee our operations in the North West of the state.


The role is a diverse one and one that requires experience and knowledge of water safety education, trends in vocational training, as well as being passionate and current with industry trends within the aquatic sector.


Gary Johnson is a name many people will recognise and we are excited to announce that Gary will head up our operations within this area and he ticks off on all the requirements for the role.


If you haven’t met Gary at a conference, over a webinar, or at one of our training courses please read on as Gary has experienced a wonderful, colourful and fulfilling life based around aquatics.



Q&A with Gary Johnson:


Welcome to Royal Life Saving Gary! We’ve designed some random questions that we thought our readers would enjoy.


Do you remember your first experience at a RLS course?

Yep, I was in year 4 (1980) when I did my Intermediate Award at Sutherland Swim Centre. To us, the dizzy heights of a Bronze Medallion were the pinnacle. Then I did my first PLG Course at the Gunnedah Pool in 1997 with probably the worst trainer I’ve ever met. A rookie named Jason Phillips.


I remember a young Gary Johnson attending his first Trainer workshop in Grafton in 1998. You haven’t put on one extra kilo – what’s the secret to staying fit and healthy?

I’m one of those lucky people who got a good dose of the skinny gene.


If you could invite 3 people to a dinner party (alive or dead) who would they be? The Attenbro, my convict ancestor James Johnson and Derryn Brown.


From your 30 + years of volunteering and working within the aquatic industry what are the Pox (not the best aspect) and Rox (highlights) of your career? The worse was not seeing a kid in time to successfully resuscitate him. Ironically, if that hadn’t happened, I’d never have asked myself the questions that lead me to learn so much. Highlights… there’s nothing like presenting internationally and the friendships you develop from that. Dr Tom Griffiths was my unicorn… my ultimate hero. I could hardly speak when I first met him. Now we’re drinking buddies. Love the guy.


You are a passionate volunteer for your local community and in particular your role with the RFS. What are some aspects of volunteering that can assist your professional career? Understanding the complexities of decision making within the constraints of minimal time and serious consequences. The importance of reassuring people. The importance of having strategies to manage critical incident stress.


As a committed Conference attendee and speaker, your cupboard at home would be full of conference satchels and pens. How does your lovely wife Vanessa, put up with all the freebies you hoard, and what is the best thing about attending a conference? I used to give all my freebies to my kids. They’d think it was Christmas. Lanyards… I’ve kept the lanyards. The best thing is usually the locations. How good’s a beach side resort?


Do you remember your first conference as a Speaker and how did you over come the usual nerves of presenting to the room? I definitely remember it. You can’t be too prepared. Feel the fear and do it anyway. A schooner beforehand doesn’t hurt either.


Your presentations are known for their ability to engage, motivate and inspire people in the room and I’m sure you get plenty of emails and messages of support. Who is one of the people that have inspired you as a presenter? I saw Bruce Sullivan present at an ARI conference and thought… I wanna be like that. An energetic, motivated speaker who doesn’t use notes and makes excellent use of pauses. Peter Baines was another speaker that had a big impact on me. Dr Justin Sempsrott is another speaker that I’ll go and watch every opportunity I get. These guys are the masters of toeing the line between presenting and performing without us really noticing. Long after people have forgotten what you said, they’ll remember how you made them feel.


You’ve presented and worked in various countries such as New Zealand, the US and the UK. What is one highlight from your time spent abroad?You know how the guy at the party with the accent gets all the attention of the girls in the room? Well, you can be that guy. You’ve got the accent and the time difference means you can party all night. Particularly in the US where I found they love Australians. I could literally walk into a bar and by the time I’d opened my mouth and ordered a beer, people would want to talk to me.


You live on the outskirts of the bustling village of Bendemeer on a beautiful property approx. 30 mins from Tamworth. Pox and Rox of living in Bendemeer? My family and the bush ground me. It’s fun acting like the rockstar, but I need to be Gary Johnson. It’s what my soul needs to allow me to do the things I do. Covid lock down on a farm is heaven. The worst part… mobile data for internet access can be painful. No Netflix for us.


I’ve seen your fashion sense outside of Council and RLS attire and it’s a little outside of the normal business shirt and slacks. Have you always been passionate for tie died shirts, rock star jeans and Willy Wonker jackets? Hell yeah. I hear people say you only live once. Not true. You only die once. When the occasion arises, I’m equally happy dressed like Hugh Jackman in The Greatest Showman or an extra in the video clip to The safety Dance. Did I mention I like to sing? For some of us the eighties just never left.

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